Life Imitates “Art”

Oscar Wilde once wrote that “life imitates art far more than art imitates life”. He was silent, however, on the frequency of life imitating execrable TV shows from the late 1970s. The latest news indicates that such an imitation has happened at least once. In Kansas City, Missouri, long-haul truckers Mark Archigo and Debbie Kaumans were recently found guilty of the crime of “keeping or harboring a dangerous animal within city limits”. If your brain has been wasting space remembering that the TV show BJ and the Bear actually existed from 1978 to 1981, then you should be able to guess where we’re all headed. Yes, the truck drivers were accompanied by a chimpanzee, one saddled with the unfortunate moniker Suco.

BJ and the Bear Photo
Not pictured: Mark Archigo and Suco

In October of 2010, the 21-year-old chimp escaped from her owners’ truck, scared local residents, and attacked a police car. Suco was eventually subdued and taken to the Kansas City Zoo, where she’s been living since. During the trial, Archigo defended himself while on the witness stand. “This animal is well-cared for. She’s like a jewel to us. She does not get out of the truck without supervision”, he absurdly stated, despite a rather comical dashboard cam video showing her out of the truck and violently unsupervised1.

Ultimately, the defendants were ordered to pay the city $1524.25 in restitution for damage to the police cruiser. As well, Kaumans was fined $250, while Archigo received a larger $500 fine because he’s previously been convicted of a similar violation. This farcical story could end here, and I wish it had, because I’m running out of synonyms for the word “ridiculous”. Alas, there’s more, because now a custody battle is brewing. Kansas City believes these violations allow it to take ownership of the chimp, and has done so. Meanwhile, a third party has injected himself into the case as well. John Michael Oyer claims he’s a part-owner of Suco, and has been petitioning for her release since before the trial began. The Kansas City Star has the full story, but this is the key paragraph:

Archigo watched Suco’s 1989 birth and took custody of her after she was weaned from her mother, Oyer said. Archigo taught Oyer to work with her. They planned to use Suco to start a tree trimming service called Monkey Tree Service. Oyer said he shared ownership in his tree-trimming business with Archigo in exchange for half-ownership of Suco.

Monkey Tree Service. Monkey. Tree. Service. It’s brilliant in its stupidity. Sadly, Kansas City refused to grant them the permits needed for this groundbreaking business. But why does that idea seem so familiar? Ah, yes:

Maybe we train a real one to drive it. Maybe he's just our animated mascot. Either way, I'm damned sure people would ride on The Monkey Bus.

Perhaps the saddest part of all this? Because Suco wasn’t brought in to testify, there are no courtroom sketches featuring a monkey2.


  1. This ape attack has been archived here. ↩︎

  2. Yeah, yeah, chimps aren’t monkeys. I know, and I don’t care. “Monkey” is a far more comical word, so I’m using it. ↩︎